Checking Your Book for the Time

Art Spiegelman was probably ahead of his time when his publisher produced a CD-ROM of The Complete Maus in the early ’90s, and he’s still combining media to create and publish his comics, but as for switching to all digital, he says,

“It’s too soon. Right now anything made for the iPad is like performance art. I’m not interested in performance art. Comics are too hard to make to be done for such a passing blip. When it stabilizes, I’ll look at it. Right now, I’m very happy to download a comic from the digital comics museum and put it on my iPad to read.
“I always have been and will remain someone who loves real, 3D, substantial books. And I don’t believe that it’s a wistful, nostalgic interest like vinyl collectors. It’s not the same thing.”

He’s clear that digital is ideal for keeping textbooks up to date, and at the same time, he isn’t surprised that graphic novels are thriving in print. (Yes, we now have print, as we have acoustic guitar or piano for their originals.) Art Spiegelman is also interested in the way our immersion in various media changes our reading experience, as when he checks the corner of his print book for a clock.  You can read Brian Heater’s interview at Publishers Weekly.

(Sidenote: Spiegel is German for mirror. Don’t you love it when the name fits?) And Art is looking forward to those who will rediscover the physical book in a few hundred years and be amazed by its possibilities. Me too!

I do recommend a print version for journals, other personal and family artifacts, timeless wisdom, and creative writing. Our racing technology is indispensable in creation and performance, but in high tech products, there is both more security (you can store copies of manuscript securely online) and more risk. Acid free paper will last a few hundred years, while that elementary school project from the son who’s now in college? Well, it’s on VHS. I wonder if we’ll have technology wills, where we list our endangered artifacts so descendants will know what to transfer to the next medium. And more importantly, which of our artifacts will they cherish enough to preserve?


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved.

Brian Heater. “Art Spiegelman on the Future of the Book.” Publishers Weekly. Web. 11 October 2011.

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